Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some Thoughts On Prayer

Someone has said, "Prayer is to the soul, what oxygen is to the body."

Do you agree?

We are great believers in the Great Commission. We recognize the importance of taking the Good News to every person and people group on the planet. The inspiration of the scriptures is a bedrock tenant of our faith. Orthodoxy in our theology is admirable. Ministry to others is vital to the work of the New Testament Church. But with all of our emphasis on orthodoxy, convention goals, local church ministries, and the Great Commission, I have to believe that many of us are guilty of the "Great Omission". I make reference to our often anemic prayer lives.

The Holy Spirit has convicted me of my own weakness in this vital Christian discipline.

I've read any number of books on the importance of prayer, the how of prayer, the why of prayer, and the power of prayer. I have practiced prayer since the "Now I lay me down to sleep" days of my youth. I have prayed publicly and privately. I have prayed in "King James English" and common conversational style. I have prayed standing, kneeling, and prostrate. Hands raised, head bowed, hands uplifted, hands folded, eyes open, eyes closed. I've prayed in times of joy, sorrow, pain, happiness, sadness, sickness, financial need and health. I've studied Jesus' instructions on prayer, and tried to follow suit. But I must confess that through all that, I still often feel that there is very little power in my prayer life.

I am convicted of this. I yearn for a closer walk with the Savior, a deeper communication with Him. I want to know the sweetness of His presence - all the time - not just sometimes. I want to exercise my privilege of prayer without emptiness, boredom, faithlessness, or weariness. I want every time of prayer to be intimate time with my Master. I want to confess my sin, praise His Wonderful name, give Him thanks for His provision, make intercession for others, and bring Him my deepest felt needs. I want to feel Grace pour down like water. I want to be broken before His Throne.

Over the past couple of years I have been challenged by fellow West Virginia Pastor Dan Biser, regarding my personal prayer life. Dan's dedication to this discipline, and the Holy Spirit's prompting me through God's Word has ignited a fire in me to want more. New Orleans' Joe McKeever's insights on prayer have also served to motivate me. The personal conviction has grown into a greater conviction for the importance of Prayer, not only in my life, but also in the lives of the church members I am called to shepherd.

A ceramic plaque hung on the living room wall in my boyhood home for many years. It's simple message read, "Prayer Changes Things". For most of my life I took that message to mean that our prayers in some way help God to see things our way. I have since learned that actually, prayer helps US see things from God's perspective. Prayer changes things all right. Prayer changes us!

In Acts chapter four we see persecution begin to come upon the church in Jerusalem. Peter and John have been threatened with jail and bodily harm for no other offense than their testimony of Christ. When released by the Sanhedrin, the Apostles sought out the other members of the fellowship. I find it interesting that in the face of mounting persecution they did not hire an attorney to represent them. They didn't carry signs and parade through the streets in protest. They didn't organize the Christian Defense Fund, nor did they write letters and opinion pieces demanding their rights.

They prayed.

And what a prayer it was. It came from the heart. They lifted their voices to God in one accord. There was unity and purpose in their prayer. They acknowledged their plight, and their inability to help themselves. They acknowledged the sovereignty and power of God. They "prayed the Word of God", quoting scripture back to the Father who spoke it. They prayed for boldness, for healing and for miracles - for Christ's sake and in the name of Jesus. They were simply broken before Him.

There is a simple, yet profound statement made in verse 31 which gives the outcome and results of their prayer:

"And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness."

Isn't that what we need and what we should want? A fresh encounter with God and a filling of His Spirit and a holy boldness in our witness. " When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken."

In my life, in your life, in our churches, isn't that exactly what we need to experience?

Let us pray until we see "a whole lot of shakin' goin' on"!

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